Sunday, January 31, 2016

Busy in America

Grüezi, people. It’s been awhile.

The Frau has been busy. Yes. And she can’t help it. Because that’s what you are in America. Busy. Busy. Busy. If you’re not busy in America then you’re not worthy.

The Frau’s mother, who is retired, is also always “busy.” Small Child M, The Frau’s preschooler, has recently declared that she is also “busy.”

Heaven help a culture where preschoolers and retirees are always busy, but that is America for you, yodelers.  If The Frau, prime in her working adult years, wasn’t also busy, how would that look? “Busy” is a requirement for American citizenship.

So if you must know, The Frau has been busy for a very good reason: she has incorporated. Yes. Another fact of American life: the American government loves corporations more than citizens, so to be treated fairly as a writer or other independent professional in America who is even semi-successful, you must become a corporation. At least, that’s what The Frau’s accountant seems to say.

So welcome to Cross Border Content Inc, The Frau’s company. It still doesn’t have a website and it really has nothing to do with this blog, but it sure justifies The Frau’s American busy-ness, oder?

Now. If you can tell, thanks to a certain country, The Frau is slowly forgetting how to relax. So if someone over in Europe could please remind her what they did this month, she’d like to live vicariously through them. Newspaper and coffee at a café, all day? Hiking on a pristine mountain path? Swimming in a pristine 50-meter pool? Leave a comment: Busy and incorporated minds want to know.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Trying to Rationalize Emotional Questions

Many people casually ask The Frau: So are you going back to Switzerland?

They ask it in a tone you would use to ask someone what they are having for dinner.

But the answer is not as simple as dinner.

The Frau wants to say yes. Rationally, it makes sense to live in a functional democracy, rather than the broken American version, which is headed towards plutocracy.

But the truth is, The Frau doesn’t know yet.

There are still family issues to deal with as well as emotions and futures to consider.

And there are days when The Frau’s parents come over and they go to lunch together. Those days are nice. You don’t get those days overseas.

But, look, Yodelers. Let’s be honest: America is a disaster right now. Most people with an option to go back and live in a functional industrialized country should probably do it, right? There are even articles out there telling us where to move should Trump become president. (Switzerland is number one on the list.)

Here are some of the issues The Frau is struggling with:

The very American healthcare system that saves lives robs people with its greed. In fact, among Americans with health insurance, twenty percent still go bankrupt due to medical bills.

The Frau finds these statistics horrifying. She thinks the richest country in the world should be ashamed of itself.

Instead, some lawmakers push to repeal any progress that’s been made. Instead, the American government refuses to control the prices of healthcare. And prices aren’t reasonable. They’re stratospheric. They’re ridiculous. Even Americans making good salaries worry about financial ruin from health insurance plans that include ever-higher deductibles. Most plans pay 80% but leave you with 20% payments from hospitals whose bills can run in the hundred thousand to million-dollar range. To think The Frau once spent five days in a Swiss hospital and the cost was only $3,000. And Swiss insurance paid it in full. It does make one consider moving back.

Even Vice President Joe Biden worried about paying bills from his son’s bout with cancer. President Obama offered to loan him money. Yes. If our country’s leaders are struggling, what about the average American?

Healthcare is just one issue. There are many others.

The U.S. leads the world in mass shootings.
American politics is broken—even President Obama admitted this Tuesday night.
Only five corporations own the media, distorting information and therefore democracy.
The list goes on.

Look. While the Frau isn’t personally struggling, she knows that in America, it doesn’t take much to create a disaster when you’re part of a system that offers few safety nets and considers healthcare a commodity given to the highest bidder instead of a human right.

But then she looks at her daughter. And her parents. And how they play together every week. And then she cries when she thinks about moving far away again.

So. Back to that question: Are you going back to Switzerland?

Sorry, mitenand, but it’s not black and white.
It’s not rational. It’s emotional.
And it’s not a yes or no answer.
At least, not until a certain looming deadline forces it to be.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

The secret place The Frau goes to feel foreign again

It's strange, but sometimes you miss being a foreigner.

The Frau's hometown, Naperville, IL, has a solution for that.

Food stall outside the Asian grocery store in Naperville, IL
It's called the H Mart

It was here, in this Asian grocery store last week, that The Frau gripped her shopping list (filled with items she needed to cook some Asian and Indian dishes from her Swiss Hiltl Cookbook), pleasantly overwhelmed with the feeling that she may never find half the things on it.

Most of the people in the store were not speaking English. There were words on the food packages that The Frau couldn't read. Even the vegetables were foreign. 

It was wonderful. 

In fact, it was so foreign and wonderful that The Frau has decided that her New Year's resolution is to come here at least once a month to enjoy that foreign feeling--at least when she's not getting enough of it feeling like a foreigner in her own country.

To think, Yodelers: H Mart has always been there, in The Frau's childhood Chicago suburban village, just waiting for her to come in and appreciate it.

And that day has finally come.

Sometimes it takes being an expat and then coming home again to understand the joy of being out of your element. Many find only fear in this situation. And The Frau is concerned that too many Americans these days find differences scary. To those Americans, The Frau recommends a passport and an airline ticket. Or if that's not possible, then the second best thing: a trip to the local H Mart. 

Repats: Do you have a secret place you go to feel foreign sometimes?


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